Published Mar 31, 2020To say that M. Ward's albums all follow the same blueprint is essentially a compliment. Only a musician with such a rich talent for melody and vocal texture could get away with crafting so much sparse and simply written material and still make it work.
But the fact that Ward's ninth studio album stands as his musically and thematically richest doesn't take away from the charisma of Migration Stories. Recorded in Quebec with Arcade Fire's Tim Kingsbury and Richard Reed Parry, and with production from The Suburbs engineer Craig Silvey, this 11-track LP stands as one of the strongest from the Portland, OR singer-songwriter.
Inspired by his grandfather's passage into the U.S. from Mexico a hundred years ago, tracks like the echoed ballad "Migration of Souls" and the dusty "Along the Santa Fe Trail" are given a lyrical depth not always found within his music. But Ward, Kingsbury and Perry don't seem comfortable relying on a singular musical mood throughout the 37-minute LP, as the smooth, jazzed-out "Independent Man" and the synth assisted "Real Silence" push the boundaries of traditional cowboy songs.
On Migration Stories, M. Ward doesn't change the way he delivers his material as much as he alters the way it reverberates once it hits you. (Anti)